Cynthia’s Hack

Trigger warnings on this short story. Contains self harm, self mutilation, dysphoria, medical information and psychological triggers. –Anne

“Ok, Poindexter show me what you got!”

I furiously typed away at the keyboard, I’m in my bodysuit. It’s a Tuesday. I know I’m replaying the last few days in my head.

//c root -tw key -22 -c -t -r

/ reset pss.cyn.shell 12 b 2 matrix -q

/ shell – Cynthia-12 – root

Running…

Login reset matrix 12 by 2 password lock active

“Ha! Let’s see you get past that! Fucker!”

I took a drink of my can of Mother. It’s a habit; A bad one I haven’t got myself out of yet.

The code ran and the hacker, whoever they were couldn’t get past the set up. It was resetting root, admin, and the user passwords with a matrix of 12 by 2 random characters. Only I knew what they where. It would reset them every 24 hours. I would get the new set logged into a set file accessible with the admin passwords the AFP had set for this day. All from a protocol, I had set. Each one was about 30 words long, from randomised sets of poetry. Phrases were easier to remember, after all. Alphanumeric’s where no good when you had to type 2 sets of 12 characters. I could make it more, but nothing yet had got past this (I had the next layer set with a. 24 by 6 characters matrix just to be sure).

The hacker tried a few things like trying to reset the system to the state it was before my shell had activated. The best defense was a good offense while he tried (and failed to) do that the lineman program I had ran everything he had. I made a image of all his drives and locations. In a second I was able to send them all to my partner. Police partner that is.

I dail, he picks up first ring.

“Their you go Sgt. Davis, his address, Medicare, browser history and his entire drive. You have everything he’s done. Including two banks he’s nicked credit off, three ISPs he’s got data from and a sperm donation he’s deposited at. If you want I can give you his DNA file. Even the donation place has rejected him! Though clearly they haven’t told him. They are using it for cloning spare organs. Ha. Flappers got some good liver genes and that’s it.”

I suppose some people would think it vulgar to see an 20 year-old Japanese woman in a police uniform use some of the language I do, but I’m not all I seem.

“Thanks Cynthia, your a real credit to the team. I’ll get the nab team on him. Remind me to take you out of a drink someday soon.”

“Ha!” I cracked up, almost spilling my Mother all over the keyboard. “You know I can’t fucking take this body out of the building until its paid off! I doubt you would be so kind to my real one.”

“No, Cynthia I mean your real one. Just two blokes having a beer.”

“I am not a bloke. Don’t. I can’t fucking drink alcohol regardless.” I start to type furiously from my station, I want to run out but I try to keep my cool for now. I just manage to keep the phone on the hook.

“Sorry, I forget.” Sgt. Davis in a rather apologetic tone. He’s not a bad guy, just not the quickest fox in the hen house.

“Don’t.”

I shut off the phone receiver before I start crying, or insulting my boss, or both. I’m always more emotional than I seem. Its hard to be tough, I never really wanted to be it, at that. It still looked like trying to ignore your true self.

”I’m not male. I’m Cynthia. I’m a woman. I can have feelings and feel them. It’s ok to feel feelings it doesn’t make you week it makes you strong.”

I recite the mantras my psychiatrist gave me. She’s so helpful to me.

I decide it’s time for a break so I have my lunch (protein synthesis item 22, caffeine enhanced Orange juice) then get back to my desk.

After a few hours of less interesting security protocols and adding or modifying of security programs. I then pack up my work. It’s time to go home. Thirty-Three floors up.

Yeah, I live in the new Australian Federal Police building. It’s me and a few other officers who have special needs. Either always do night shifts, or are just so committed to the job it just makes more sense. Family’s not really a thing when you live for your work. Most of us send money to other parts of the family or pay of debts we got before we joined. More often both.

My home was a (not special) concrete box on the top floor of the building. I have a few neat little things in my contract that allows this. Mostly, because my real body lives here. I never leave the building. I’m a “shut-in”, with my own room in a public service building. It’s just us poor sods who have nothing else or otherwise can’t leave.

I open my door, walk in and get undressed. I look at my real body one last time before I step into the maintenance cube.

I shut my eyes.

—-

I wake up in my other body.

It’s fat.

Ugly.

Male.

Scared.

Black unwashed hair. Olive-Cream coloured unwashed skin. I needed to go to the bathroom. Urgh. As usual, I had the fucking morning glory. I hate that. Being in my real body, the suit, it simulates sleep. Like a dream state where I am my real self.

After I’ve been to the loo, I shower. Trying not to look at my body too much. It needs washing more often. Better looking after. I hate it though.

I’m fucking stuck in it for now though. As I shower that fucking memory plays in my head.

I do the regulation exercises. With the same amount of effort that anyone who very much wants to be out of the world does.

I do my hair and take my medicines.

I eat the nutritional supplements I need to maintain this body. I cut my hair and nails.

It’s time to do that. End of the month.

I get into the bath, shave all my other body hair. Every little bit needs to be gone. Then and only then will… no…. No! … fuck.

The memory managed to get to me.

—-

“Unfortunately you can’t take HRT, Brian. You would die. Your disease I’m afraid. It’s not terminal, but the HRT, it will..”

“I know. I know. I clot out and stroke or worse. And anti clotting won’t help.”

The endocrinologist nods. “You knew already.”

I get up to walk out of the office before I start crying. I can’t deal with this. “Yes. Just needed a second opinion doc. Thanks. ”

I walked home and cried for about 3 hours. Thats when I had the idea to build / buy Cynthia. I’m 18, in a comfy tracksuit. It’s got Mother and coffee stains on it and feels like a old friend. It’s one of the few male clothes I own.

I’m Cynthia. I know I am. I just can’t appear that way to the world outside the internet. I can get home, put my proper clothes on. I can be Cynthia online. I know I can start to get the money together to build or buy a cyber suit.

My thrombosis is a disease that even nanomacines can’t fix yet. Not for a long, long while. You would have to replace all the blood in my body, all my marrow, all the cells that make my marrow and all of the fualty genes that cause me to have Type O negative blood with factor V Leiden (a condition I can thank my fucking useless father for). It’s like asking for a miracle. I can’t ever get to my true self. Only online or in a cyber suit. That’s all I get. I just can’t deal.

I remember cutting myself. My scars for the future. Blood. It’s just another reminder of this broken body. It’s not very good for me either. It clots fast, but not evenly. It’s oddly entertaining in a way, but in a minute or two I get the band aids. I never cut more than a tiny amount. If I did I would clot and clot until I ended up in hospital again. I can’t fucking deal with hospitals. Or is it that I never have the guts to go through with it, or is it I always have the guts to stop myself?

I bleed slightly, take out some band-aids. Slap them on then cry into oblivion.

I’m finished shaving. Crying in a ball in the bath.

Gah.

Again.

—-

The gloomy, cloudy Canberra winter day. I am back as Cynthia. In my, what I will loosely call my apartment.

It’s my first day as Cynthia. I’m in a cafe hacking a bank. It’s a “bleeding heart” job if you’ll excuse the pun. You take all the incoming transactions, you hold them for a fraction of a minute to get shares and interest thats going up, sell them a fraction of a minute later. Profits go to you, the rest goes back to the bank.

No one can ever spot it. (I fool myself)

Banks themselves do this. All the time. I’m just doing the same, again on the top. I’m using the cash to pay for my new cyber body. And spare parts, of course.

Then this man sits near me. He has a mop of curly hair, almost seems like a wig. A blue suit with red shirt, silver black tie pinned down. He has a cybernetic left eye. I can tell in this body. Normal people can’t spot them they have got so good.

He looks at me as I type. I stick out my tongue at him. I can do without the attention. He probably thinks I’m a robot sex worker. This body model looks the part. I wanted to look like this, for as long as I can remember. Doesn’t mean I have to act like a sex worker, not that their is anything wrong with that, just not my bag.

Anyone with the cash can get a synth controller and connect it to a cyber body like this, then do what they want. Of course, the cost isn’t small. This model costs up to 80,000 credits. And that’s on the black market, retail its more like 120,000. I went retail. No way I’m getting done for black market trading in cyber goods. Hacking, sure that I am happy to serve for, but I’m not a pirate, I’m a thief. And a damn good one. I am sure the distinction isn’t much to non-crims but it’s a whole universe of difference to me.

Mr Mophair looks a little taken aback then opens his own laptop. It’s sleek, red, and is the newest model. Blegh. Corporate geek. He opens his index finger and plugs a BSN into the shunt and is doing whatever he is doing when his coffee and bagel arrives.

I’m kind of surprised he’s using a BSN. I suppose he’s pretty happy with the security of it. I could, technically do all I am doing from a secure network at home. Doing it on a cheap ass laptop in my cyber body gives me a lot more security as I’m not personally attached to it . Public unsecured networks with my own IP switcher to make things a bit more fun for anyone trying to track me. This is Childs play.

I’ve done the bank trick a few times with different banks, different sorts of shares, bonds, shorts. I never use crypto, it keeps all the transactions, like why would you want someone else to look at your transitions? Its like a big sign saying “hello you are here”. Everything filtered through dummy accounts and all that jazz. I am pretty confident I have everything set up right.

Of course, as it is often said only n00bz th7nk they can’t g3t pwwwnd.

Anyone can get pwwwnd. Anyone. Even me. Watch.

So today I’m at a new cafe, in a different part of the city. It’s been about 6-12 months since I started doing this, so I know this has to be the last place I hit. I know any day now the current target banks will notice.

I’m doubling the IP switches, going through three layers of different routers and I even have a return traffic logger looking to see if someone is watching me.

Then I see him. Mr Mophair. He walks into the cafe and looks right at me. I try and ignore him. This city isn’t big. It’s not too uncommon to see the same person in the different places at different times. He walks up to me and stares.

”Got a problem, Poindexter?”

I get irritated at him standing over me.

”Brian Papalino-Chang?”

That gets my attention.

He sits across from me.

”Let me guess, triple logger blinding?”

He nodded. Fuck. The guy had spotted me the first time I saw him. He’s just been waiting to pounce.

”I’m under arrest?”

”That depends.”

”On what?”

”On if you are willing to give up what you stole and come work for me.”

I stare at him. He seems serious.

”I have a record of everything you did. It wasn’t easy. I happened only to find it because I was investigating the banks. But I have enough evidence to either arrest you or, with approval from my boss, get you to sign this.”

He pushed a sheet of paper to me.

I looked at him. I popped the gum I happened to be chewing. Then when a few seconds had passed I picked it up.

It’s a contract agreement. It’s all in law speak with hitherto’s, therefore, theys, party one and party two and so on. I’m able to follow the general gist of it. My mum had been a lawyer so I knew some of what I needed to know. It basically said I give up my life of crime for helping the federal police catch people like me who aren’t as good.

I look at Mr Mophair. I nod.

”You could have done this at the second bank I shifted. Why now?”

Mophair brushed his brow.

”Your hacks where helping my investigation. I have enough to charge some pretty big bank bosses now. It seemed like the best point.”

I sit and contemplate. Time passes. He sips a coffee.

”you know this isn’t my real body yeah?”

”I gathered. Your trans? Or is it just another layer of security?”

”Both really.”

”So you prefer she/ her pronouns?”

”Yes. Please. I’m Cynthia. Not that other name you called me.”

The rest. Well you know.

Mophair is really Commissioner Aldren. My boss’s boss now since I helped him with the bank job. I’m just an inspector. I don’t really feel the need for promotion. Just catching stupid hackers and idiots who think they are the first to do some white-collar crime.

I spend as much time in my suit as I can, but I can’t take it out if the building till I’ve paid it off. A few more months.

I’m not going to go do some other job. It’s not worth the risks. Here I get my suit and all the maintenance I will ever need. One day I might even convince the building guy to let me have a cat. Even if it costs me a date or two.

I get to be me as long as I can and there is nothing worth more than that.

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Warrior poets, bleeding from a mortal metaphor

For the gods have always had a sense of humor.

The idea of warrior poets was so amusing that only was their a brief appearance of them.

Mortally wounding a mortal with a metaphor had of course, little to do with vanity.

It was all about differentially making a odd little calculus deceiptherabe into a linguistic phantasm.

Math and litriture as one, into a more horrible beast than meer juxtopostion into the blue metaphor that would come from a cloudless sky, say.

Laughthing at this passion play beyond the want of any, made to only be understandable in little bits like a puzle looked upon from far off.

The warroir poets bleed sinking red dusty soil out of old veins that manticores have once sleign.

 

 

 

City observer 117ATR4

A city has but branches of the commoners

Paved over with the solid tiles

I’m only inside their nests observing their movements, obsessions right and left

They seem to like to spread them up and out

Build a metal roof and add more cement

Move around like ants though none is the queen

They seem to congregate just to be teamed

Every one of these nests is a little different

Some have tall metal buildings in which they seem to collect their food and then go to smaller ones they sleep in

Others mix them in almost chaotic ways

But never are they confused by this the locals seem to just imbue the knowledge to younger ones

Occasionally they travel between the nests, sometimes to visit, sometimes to stay

Today I noticed they use little lights to help guide them in their ways

Are they afraid of the dark or just unable to see?

Dreams and fear

On the ivory steps, Phobos wept in his melancholy rage seeking new fear

Morpheus in his technicolour Dreamcoat, stepping across from the marble quarry smiling like a madman

I’m your new best friend, all thief of the night they call me, I’ve adapted

Hope still sits, in their ivory hall trying all she can to hide from me

You don’t need her, you can take no for an answer

But you are master, dream lord, my superior, you do not know what it is like, you will long be here, as dreams won’t cease but fear, fear can be destroyed by hope

She is indeed a destroyer, like yourself, but only a seeker of anew which, you love secretly here on her ivory steps

What if I could tell you the mortals can need you as much? Do I let you both in the dreaming castle?

Well, I would be able to exist as long as you, as her. I would only ever love her from afar but I would still be able to love her.

This the coat was drawn upon the wholeness and all their present retired to a castle were fear, hope and dreams lived for a long long time

Talk foundation fountain 

I gutted a fish, in your dreams. I’m sitting their descant, descaling it on a memento of your past. 

You whistling your old school song. The sky is purple with tears of the gods falling gently on the horizon. The ocean reflects only your smile.

You walk towards me on the peer. I lick my fingers clean, finished the tasks of the day. I get up and spit. I then see you and you smile at me.

I’m looking slightly annoyed with you, but not unhappy. I hold my hand on my waist and wave at you to come closer.

Stepping on a strange feeling bit of growth in the pier, your take a look at your shoes and feet. In the light the little dead things you walk on are crushed by your heel.

You look up at me your face hollow with fear. These bland bleeched bones, are human.

I’m still waving and waiting. 

Will you come to me? Or run away?   

Mind Junkie

Fruity drinking modernists, whispering bourgeois platitudes whilst encased in mud encrusted realism’s

“Oppressive details of modernity, its Dirty realism” they whisper

As they sip their green drinks, among disinfected franchises

“Extradites of the simplistic. It’s like watching a soapy.”

One of them laughs at the idea. “Soapy. Clean plots, unclean people.”

I am not sure I am welcome in this domain of this self-hating temple

“Dystopian narratives?”, my question seeming to be sitting on the air like a ignorant child’s observation of the obvious

Looking long, and drinking some more, then Tweedy waves his hand at the effervescence silence.

“Not always. A possessive obsession of those, things we consider dirty.” He tastes the words like a snake, waiting to see if the air is deflated of my question

Seriously, a stuck up Hat-man, such a brown nose he has I thought, he doesn’t realize how much we need the junk, how we need to realize we need to recycle it, compost it, re-purpose it, let it influence us, and how it influences him

“Oh Tweedy, oh tweedie, you are but a mind junkie, kindled by the thrash of so called unclean. As much as you would hate to admit it. Cycles are needed, feeding into each other, like rivers. Of course any second now you will ask me to stick to just one metaphor. But I ask you, why should junk like me do that, you take our freshest mud and excrement, say “oh look at that, how silly this low brow thing is” and then you let it come in stay like a stray cat. It likes to sit and wait, then one day, you will realize you feed it just as much as you feed the dig dog who barks at all your supposed wrong.”

I pick up his drink, drink his drink, smile at him, and walk out without another word. Ready to cover the world in the words of the so called trash of the real. This dirty realism, it isn’t so much dirty as it is a part of the whole cycle. Live with it. Let it in. Feed it. Morals from the hang ups of a culture who hasn’t worked out how we talk to each other.

 

 

 

 

The Nails

The train-tube station emptied into the city on one side and a great green park on the other side. A bald headed in a suit and shorts walked slowly out into the freezing night. The ice had covered the whole park like a sheet of paper on a draftmans desk. The temperature in Brisbane had beer a warm friend. Hear in Melbourne on the same day. It was already a dark and cold autumn. The tropics have such a different temperature now. They said it was climate change settling down. Andrew had no reason to disagree. 

Melbourne ment buildings shrieked in the night air. The cars on the road sleepily rolling along. The streets less full than once they were. It was hard to mistake the death of a once mighty city. The ocean was coming. No matter how settled the climate got, the ocean would sink Melbourne into half its size. It would sink all these buildings. The Tube train had been built before they knew the city was doomed. Now it was going to be closed in a few days. The city would empty. People moved on or those few left with jobs like Andrew. In charge of making sure everything important was transferred to the new city center a few kilometers inland. We’re the ocean wouldn’t swollow the buildings whole.

Andrew tried vainly to concentrate on his thoughts on how to save the city that had once been his home. The walls wouldn’t work as the geography was wrong. It had saved Sydney from the worst of it. They wouldn’t save Melbourne. To much clay hear. Not enough rock. The ocean came from under the city. Sinking bits like the beak thing in the Star whatsitcalled movie eats those people. 

Andrew rushed through the frosty park. He was chilled to the bone. His legs refused to go faster. Why did he not get a cab? Their weren’t many hear now but waiting for one in the station was better than this. 

A scraping noise then another told Andew to pick his feet up faster. I’m going to die he thought. In this stupid frosty park. 

His feet, Nails. They felt liked nails. He struggled for the word as he ran. He knew what was after him. He knew the police wouldn’t come. They are to busy with their evacuations of those who believe that the city center would soon be under a few hundred meters of water. 

Those who are chasing him? The Gods might know what they believed. Andrew wasn’t sure the gods even had an idea or thought about them anymore. 

Their was another scrape. A long one. It came from the path in the front and to the left of him. Likely he was now at the end game. They had hunted him.

Their they were. Staring him in the face. Andrew new their probebly wasn’t any point in running more. His legs though, they decided their was and he turned. His mind focusing on the face.

It was human. Not the sort of Hunan you used to meeting on a bus. Someone who you would set a watch for, or talk about the weather with. Not someone you might share a brief bus ride with. This was raw human. Like a little bit more animal than you wanted to think that existed in everyone. The human you would see at the end of a weeks without food or water. The human who would hunt. Kill. Maybe even eat anyone in their land. Because that’s what means you live. Your tribe lives. Civil? No point in civil if your starving. Nature was just as cruel as you and that’s the point. 

Cruel things survive. That’s why they still haven’t died. In this almost empty city. This dying husk. They were the gras that grew in the pavement. The rats in the walls. The cockroaches of humanity. They were not something you wanted to exist. They existed regardless.

Andrew saw its face. In the light, it had dark shadows, teeth sharpened to a point, a skateboard to get around on. They hunted on them. A fast, easy way to hunt. They would eat anything they could get. Which on feet Andrew knew. No way would he reach safety. They would have three of their pack members chase him around the park. Then at every exit. Their was another. A pipe, a brick, a fry pan. The leader might have a gun. They would all be ready to kill him. Take his clothes. His food (he had none) and his flesh. 

On the way to the next exit, Andrew slipped. He fell hard down brick steps. Each one hitting him hard. His ribs broke. He screemed as quietly as he could. At the bottom. The hard paved surface skidded under his arms. His legs felt like red looks. 

The leader of the pack. He was certain. She had nails in her mouth. Like fangs. Also a set of metal knuckles on both hands. Each could easily kill him with one hit into his head. Her hair was greezy and short. She wore leather clothing, shirt, smock, skirt, jacket. Tattoos on her face looked handmade. She took a knife from her pocket and skated slowly towards him. Roller blades. 

Andrew prepared to die. Crawling slowly on the pavement. He thought about what he had done in his life. How it wouldn’t even be remembered. Another more sensible person would be sent hear to pick up the last few boxes of documents. Maybe a simple funeral for his mother. They wouldn’t have a body.

He prepared for the pain. The knife cutting him. The blood slowly dripping from his own body. His flesh being eaten as he was still alive. Her mouth slucheing the fresh flesh and licking her lips as she ate it slowly as one would a great feast. To scared to scream. To injured to run away. 

A screech filled the air. She, the tribe leader looked up. She muttered, howeled like a wolf and rolled away. Taking her pack. 

Their was a dripping sensation from Andrews pants. 

A blue flashing light. 

Cops. Real cops. They had found him. Somehow. Rescued him. 

Andrew thought about getting a better job.